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The NFL desparately needs more domestic violence awareness

It’s November. That means the National Football League will be folding up the pink towels, boxing up pink cleats, and shelving the pink socks that represent breast cancer awareness month.

It’s somewhat admirable that the NFL drapes itself in pink in order to alert middle-aged women that screenings might be needed to detect breast cancer. However, November is also domestic violence awareness month, an issue far more relevant to a league that continues to ignore domestic violence.

William Gay wearing his purple cleats to honor his mother.

William Gay wearing his purple cleats to honor his mother.

Last year, the NFL suspended former Ravens running back Ray Rice for two games, until a video emerged of Rice knocking out his soon-to-be wife in an elevator. He was then suspended indefinitely.

This year, Dallas Cowboy defensive end Greg Hardy, who was convicted of domestic violence, had his suspension reduced from 10 games to four, despite the NFL’s finding that Hardy physically abused his girlfriend, Nicole Holder, on four separate occasions.

“First, he used physical force against her which caused her to land in a bathtub,” the NFL said in a statement sent to the Washington Post in April. “Second, he used physical force against her which caused her to land on a futon that was covered with at least four semi-automatic rifles. Third, he used physical force against her by placing his hands around Ms. Holder’s neck and applying enough pressure to leave visible marks. And fourth, he used physical force to shove Ms. Holder against a wall in his apartment’s entry hallway.”

The four-game suspension was the same the league initially issued to Patriots quarterback Tom Brady for allegedly knowing about the deflation of footballs. Meanwhile, Hardy during his four-game suspension made a rap video showcasing guns and the objectification of women. Hardy also got into a confrontation with a coach recently on the sidelines.

No word has come from the NFL about Hardy, and the Cowboys’ response was that they wanted to extend his one-year contract to a multi-year deal. Hardy’s threat to opposing quarterbacks with his ability to sack them, seems to obscure the fact that he’s also a threat to society.

What happens if Hardy vents his well-documented anger with one of his several automatic weapons on someone who made him mad? What does the NFL say then? What happens if he throws a woman around again?

It’s not the NFL’s job to force Hardy to deal with his anger and violence against women. But it’s also not their job to keep such a person employed in their league when he so clearly needs help.

Maybe if the NFL was more aware about how domestic violence works and how it claims victims, it would have a different approach to Hardy. Instead, Cowboys owner Jerry Jones wants to bestow Hardy with millions and keep him in a Cowboys uniform for several more seasons.

Jones himself was charged with sexual assault from a former stripper, who claimed Jones had been paying her for five years to keep her quiet. The case was
eventually dismissed.

Recently the NFL fined Steelers cornerback William Gay $5,797 for wearing purple cleats in honor of domestic violence awareness month. Gay’s mother was killed by his stepfather when he was seven years old.

Instead of fining Gay, the NFL should be honoring his deceased mother by issuing purple cleats, socks, mouth pieces and towels during October. By doing so, the NFL might address its own history of ignoring domestic violence claims. By doing so, maybe players would contemplate their own anger issues, and by doing so maybe teams and the league would act differently when they are approached by a domestic violence victim.

The NFL has contributed money to domestic violence causes and sponsored powerful public service announcements on the problem. But as NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said, the NFL influences American culture. On this topic, the NFL could possibly change minds and behaviors. Isn’t that the kind of legacy the league and its commissioner want to leave?

Kevin Lynch

Kevin Lynch is in his 27th season covering the NFL, the San Francisco 49ers and Bay Area sports. He also is a guest radio host and pregame 49ers host on KNBR-AM San Francisco - the flagship station for the 49ers, San Francisco Giants, and Stanford football and basketball. Working mainly for sfgate.com, the San Francisco Chronicle's web site, Lynch is expanding into sports' biggest questions and hottest debates such as - LBGTQ acceptance, athlete criminality, the ethics of performance-enhancing drugs, marijuana, locker room culture, sports and gender, sports and sex, sports and money, sports and race, sports and social change and many other issues. He has written editorials on LBGTQ resistance in sports for the Chronicle and has appeared on KQED radio, Comcast Sports Bay Area and ESPN's Outside the Lines to talk about a variety of sports topics. He completed a Master's in Sociology at San Jose State in 2015, which included a thesis on LBGtT Resistant Attitudes and Behaviors in Sports.

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